I have been striving to create a real conversation about the food we eat in our home and where it comes from. As a full time working mom of three kids, including one with special needs, I know that just getting dinner on the table can be challenging enough. Even so, I have been systematically eradicating unhealthy snacks, foods and juices from our home and replacing them with better choices. Each week my kids find out that Mommy doesn’t buy certain food items anymore, and new healthier options are available instead.
A great way to manage everything and still get dinner on the table is to cook dinners in advance and store them in the freezer. Since I travel for my job, I often make the week’s dinners on the weekend. Getting my kids involved in the prep (see #4 below) makes it time efficiently spent doing something together. Since you have already pre prepped, you can then be more relaxed to sit and enjoy dinner as a family. Also, not every dinner has to be gourmet. You can serve delicious well-rounded meals that are simple as well.
1) Serve fresh cut up veggies with every dinner. I place a platter of raw and cooked veggies in the middle of the table every night. I rotate between different options, but it is always present. My mom did this when I was a kid and it worked. If your kids are hesitant, add a yummy low fat dip that will entice them.
2) Replace boxed macaroni and cheese with a homemade version, using whole wheat or Barilla Plus pasta. It is not only healthier, but they will likely enjoy it more, too. Make homemade baked french fries, with either regular potato or sweet potato, instead of frozen ones. I cut mine in strips, add oil, salt, pepper and Lawry’s season salt and bake them at 450 degrees. Replace pizza from the store or freezer with homemade pizza. Serve kale chips instead of tortilla and potato chips.
3) Each week (or month), stop buying one product that you want to get rid of. In my house, the first product to go was apple juice. The next thing to go was cookies and chips. Last month I stopped buying margarine and my husband gave up soda. This process has gone much more smoothly than I thought it would, and I have had barely any complaints. Next up is white bread.
4) Invite your kids to help in the kitchen. Involving them in the process will help them get excited to eat the food they participated in making. Be sure to remind them to wash their hands. In my house we wear gloves when we cook.
5) Make it fun to eat healthy. Take your kids to a u-pick at a local farm so they can see where their food comes from. I will never forget the look of wonder on my son’s face the first time he picked a strawberry, or the excitement after a day of picking to come home and cook. It was our own version of farm to table!
6) Start buying local! This is the biggest and most valuable transition we have made in our home. Through my work, I have learned the incredible value of eating locally grown food. The food tastes better — there is truly no comparison.. I encourage you to try what I call “The Apple Test”. Pick an apple straight from the tree, or purchase one from the farmer’s market, and get another one from the grocery store. Try them both! After years of not eating apples, since I thought they tasted bad, I sampled a locally grown apple. I realized that apples are in fact delicious when you eat them fresh from the farm. Not only does buying local support your local farmers and producers, y our food is so much fresher and not excessively warehoused. Eating seasonally and locally also teaches you to be creative in what you cook.
Eating locally is a great way to get your kids talking about different and healthy foods. Making these changes today can help you to begin the journey to teach your kids a better way of eating and living.
Miriam Mark is the Director of Community Development-West at Farmigo, a company working to change the food system and bring healthier, fresher, locally grown food to homes across the US. Farmigo, the first online farmers market, creates local Food Communities.